It’s Adrian here from What’s The Point? brought to you by visitwarrenpoint.com. I’m delighted to be joined by local artist Jacqueline Rooney who’s going to talk about her art, her decision to leave a secure job to follow her passion and how she balances all of that with a busy family life – Hi Jacqueline thanks for joining me!
Hello Adrian, thank you very much for having me and I’m looking forward to chatting with you this morning.
I know Jacqueline you having grown up, living in the heart of the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough, your surroundings being in such a beautiful area has obviously played a massively important role and inspiration for your art and painting?
Absolutely Adrian, having grown up at the foot of the Mourne Mountains with views of the sea, it inspired me and shaped my dream to become an artist. I have views out of my studio of Carlingford Lough, the Cooley Peninsula and the Mourne Mountains and subconsciously they are filtering through most of my work because I want to celebrate the beauty of where we live with the rest of the world as much as possible.
When did you first discover art and painting as your vocation and passion in life?
That began from a very early age and we spent summers staying at my Granny’s up at the Silent Valley in the Mourne Mountains and with very limited television and electric at that time, I just got my wee sketch book and started to paint everything I could see from a very, very early age. My granny was one of my biggest fans. She just thought it was amazing.
It led me on to my degree in fine art and then I was Head of Art at a busy secondary school for 12 years before deciding to really go for it and follow my absolute passion and turn my passion into my full time job.
And those early sketchbooks have you still got them?
Yes they’re in mums attic and they found a few of them there recently when they were decluttering and they didn’t throw them out thankfully so it’s lovely to look back.
I remember my Primary Two teacher telling my mum that she’d never seen that detail before in drawings – you know little plats in the hair and bows and drawing people – so from a very early age I was aware that I had a talent you know but it wasn’t obviously realised until later.
So those early sketchbooks will be at an auction at some point in the future going for millions!!!
Oh yes absolutely, they will be framed (laughs)!!!
You said you were a teacher and it must have been a big step, obviously a courageous step to make to follow your dream and jump out of the security of having a full-time job. How was that and what was that journey like before you took the plunge. I think you are an inspiration for others who might have a passion and vocation in life that they are really wanting to explore but they’re fearful and reluctant just maybe to take the plunge ?
Yeah that’s a really good question, as I say from from the earliest I can remember I always wanted to be an artist.
I remember sensible people saying “awk sure you know you’ll grow out of that idea” and whatever and as I was teaching I was trying to inspire my pupils up to a level to follow their dreams and follow their passions and this was niggling in the back of my mind that I was not doing that myself so we had a bit of a life change over a couple years we and we lost two family members to cancer and we had our two children within the same 18 months and my husband and I sat down and just said right life is too short and you know he said you’re talking about it long enough and so I took a career break.
I had been saving for a long time and had been painting and selling my work alongside my teaching and so we thought we better find out and test the water. Whenever I took the career break, Adrian my business started to really, really grow and I think it was my absolute passion to be finally doing what I really really wanted to do.
The doors started to open so I handed in my notice a couple years ago and I have never looked back. I would tell anyone who is seriously considering it or is on the fence at the moment that you know it is possible if you really, really, really want that so much.
I’d say I work more hours now than I did as a teacher but the satisfaction and the feeling of fulfilment and following my absolute dream is so worth it.
As a mum to young boys and as a creative person. There was a time whenever the kids weren’t around you could obviously fulfil that creative passion. When you’re in the zone you could have worked for however long – right into the night, early morning – and obviously whenever your children come along that creates a whole different dynamic. How do you find that whenever you’re in that creative zone finding the right balance between art and family?
That’s a big challenge for me to be honest.
People say before you have children you’ll not know what you did with your time and they’re so right because when they come along they are your priority.
They’re my boss!
At the moment my two boys are three and four, Finn and Evan.
I really have to be very disciplined and maintain a structure for time management.
I do literally spend every hour I can and I would use the morning time to do my social media.
My husband is very supportive and we try and block out times in the week to spend time painting and doing my admin and as soon as the boys are in bed I would come back to my studio, which is within our home, our family home, so it’s a fantastic feeling that you can dip in and out of it.
I can leave a painting drying on my easel and then come back to it and so forth so it’s about just managing your time and being really good with that so I absolutely love it and I don’t mind sitting to 11pm doing my art so I would say you can still do it if you really really want to
In terms of the creative process – do you have bursts of creativity or is it a case of you’re always just maintaining the creative process – how does that creative process work for you as an artist?
I never switch off and as a musician you probably are quite similar.
With my boys and husband even if we’re going on family days, I never leave without my camera and a little small sketchbook because I could be driving along and literally put on the brakes as quickly as possible because something just jumps out at me or really inspires me.
They’ve just got used to it ‘mummy’s taking photos for art’ or ‘mummy’s doing a wee sketch’ and the boys actually quite enjoy it.
Finn asked me the other day if he could get a little sketchbook so he could could sketch too when we are out and about so it’s lovely.
So no you never switch off and every opportunity is there every night depending on maybe the view, the scene or the colours or the lighting.
I’m never without thinking about it – it sort of takes over your mind quite a lot but it can be incorporated into your day to day.
Bringing the children into the whole process and involving them in your work as part of your day, it’s just part of who you are, what you do and what you do as a family?
It is actually and the boys don’t know me as anything other than ‘mummy the artist’ which is so sweet.
They have their own little easel set up and they actually do draw the scenes they see and are so excited which and I don’t think a lot of children would be doing t at his stage because it’s not important to them at this point in their life.
Finn will say to me “Mummy! look at that lovely view you” or “Mummy! Look at that the mountains” and and I think oh my goodness! They’re actually absorbing my passion for it which is so lovely.
You know that’s brilliant in a world of devices and technology that young children are noticing our environment, our landscape and things around us and the natural beauty which is great that you’re opening up that to them
Where we live with Carlingford Lough and Kilbroney Park on our doorstep, the views are stunning and for me to know that my children are actually appreciating that is something really special.
I don’t think had I have kept on at a 9-5 as a teacher that they would be exposed to as much as they are and even using the language, I realise they’re subconsciously picking up on being inspired which is such a lovely thing
In terms of your art and painting, you mentioned that you started whenever you’re very young – has there been a progress in your style and how would you describe your style now and has that changed over the years?
Yes of course!
When I was studying my degree and at school, a lot of people have come back to me saying my portraiture was almost photographic. I would have really concentrated on portraiture and my art teacher used to say she could imagine me on the banks of the Seine in Paris doing people’s portraits.
However, when I did my degree we were sort of encouraged to be a wee bit looser and freer in our style and so that taught me to be a little bit more experimental and then it has evolved now to the point where I just want to express my love for where I live and what inspires me through colour and uplift and help people to enjoy the landscapes and seascapes around us through vibrant vibrant colours.
So that’s where I am now and I absolutely love it!
I’m very interested on the effect that music, art and colour has on our brains and the ongoing health of our brains. What you’re doing with colour while it’s a creative process of painting and producing your own interpretations of our beautiful landscape of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne mountains, it’s working at a much deeper level?
Ah yes! The clients that I’ve met through my art, contacted me or bought paintings, all say the same thing how they had an emotional connection when they saw the piece that I created.
Its evoking a memory or a feeling as opposed to it just being a recreation of what you see in front of you or a photograph so I kind of want to make it deeper than that and I also want to try and uplift people’s interiors and homes and offices really through my art which is celebrating the beauty of what have on our doorstep in County Down.
I spent a long time traveling in Australia and Asia and different places in the world and what really influenced me was the sense of light and colour. Sometimes we have grey days here and I just think why not add a wee bit more colour if we can through my art.
Living in Warrenpoint the thing that strikes me as I take a stroll around the front shore looking over Carlingford Lough, I always think there’s not really a good day/bad day weather-wise, it’s just always a beautiful day because whenever you see the rain and the clouds coming over the Cooley mountains and the Mournes onto the Lough, it’s an absolutely beautiful and wonderful scene to witness and that changes every day!
It’s quite magical isn’t it!
I mean this is the thing where I live in Rostrevor, we have the view of that every morning.
You open the curtains and you just think…WOW!
Whether as you say it’s stormy skies, tempestuous waves or a calm almost mirror like quality on Carlingford Lough and it’s just something special and I just want to try and capture that as much as I can to keep those moments in my art for other people to enjoy.
You were saying earlier on that you would encourage anybody who’s got a passion for creating – I think in this area of Warrenpoint, Rostrevor, South Down, County Down – it’s a real vibrant place for creativity whether that’s musicians, songwriters, poets, writers, craftsmen and women and artists. Interaction through technology now gives us an opportunity to be able to show the world what it is that we do and what we’ve got to offer !
I absolutely agree!
I’ve been sending artworks all over the world right now!
I sent a piece to France yesterday and one to England today. The lady who I posted the painting to in England said her dream is whenever the pandemic is over, she’s going to come and visit the Mournes because she wants to see it for herself.
I think it’s lovely that through our different arts, crafts and musicianship that we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet. There is a wealth of local talent and I think it just is testament to where we are and what inspires us.
Facebook and Instagram is central as a business tool to promote what it is we do but it is not just about selling but giving people an uplifting experience in itself.
Yeah I agree!
It was something that I was a little apprehensive about at the start of the pandemic. I didn’t want to be taking over the news feeds with my daily images of inspiration and work. However, lots of people messaged me to say my colourful artwork was getting them through the day or making them smile.
It’s not that I’m trying to sell per se but it’s just sharing what it is that makes me really happy and hope that it can make others happy also. I’ve built up a really lovely community through social media especially on Facebook. I have a lot of people that they’re not necessarily clients or buying my work but I’ve become actually friends with them through the creative process.
By growing my business online, you develop a connection with them and interact with them and chat about things.
It can be even just reminding someone about wanting to come back to the Mournes for a visit.
I just want to keep using social media as much as possible because as I say we do have grey days both emotionally and physically and I think if we can just add that wee bit of a colour or a sense of an uplifting feeling then I continue to hopefully do that this way.
Talking of the Covid 19 / Corona virus pandemic lockdown – how has your routine been affected or because you operate and work from home perhaps there hasn’t been that much of a change but we have all experienced very troubling times – how have you been finding all of that over the last I suppose 8 weeks?
Initially I’d say I was very nervous. Different people said “oh I bet you wished you were still a teacher”. But not for one second – I was getting this massive surge of orders and people wanted a piece of bright and vibrant artwork.
Others were sending a little small framed print to loved ones with messages saying ‘you know we can’t get to the Mournes right now but we’ll get back there soon.’
It really astounded me and and I couldn’t believe how thoughtful people have become.
I think it brought the best out of many people because we were all sort of forced to stop and just you know really realiSe what was important.
I’m grateful because I’ve been able to spend more time with the children and as a family as well trying to think of the positives out of the whole experience.
I know it’s a very tough time for so many and all the businesses but for me I’m very grateful for having my own home studio and being able to keep running.
Outside of art I have no doubt that you’re a music fan – I know your Dad very well who’s a local traditional musician – Are you a fan of music… I’m sure you are?
That’s a good question Adrian.
I have been playing music since I was three.
Dad taught us the tin whistle before we started primary school so that love was there all along. I’ve always played music and sang all throughout my life.
My Dad would play Irish traditional music in the local pubs and never does he stop asking me to come along and join in. It’s such a lovely thing because we have so much of it here in Rostrevor not currently obviously with Covid 19 .
There is live music every night of the week if you want that and in Warrenpoint too. You know so we’re very, very blessed and you meet the nicest people through the music as well and we’re all again celebrating where we are and what we have around us so it’s another form of creative expression and it’s a lovely thing to be able to have and you know yourself because you’re a musician and it’s a form of therapy as well.
It’s really difficult I suppose at this point to predict how all of this is going to materialise. We have two of the the biggest musical festivals I would argue in Ireland the Warrenpoint Blues festival and Rostrevor’s Fiddler’s Green – they are casualties of all of this because that’s what we all had to do for the good of society. They are so important for the community on so many levels, we hope that they can reconvene next year and we can all enjoy all of the wonderful music and the vibrancy of people visiting our towns and our villages and having some fun.
Yes I think people now more than ever need music in their lives and all of the arts really because we’re all going to be coming out of this a little bit different and a little bit more aware of things.
I think it’s all about trying to help people to get back on track and feel happy so I music is still so fundamental to that and I really hopefully it gives us something and hopefully we can strive and look towards and look forward to it because as you say they’re the big events in our calendar locally and it’s gonna be a big miss this year but then we can focus on next year and make them bigger and better hopefully.
what we can learn
- Follow your Dreams
- Fulfilment through working on your passion
- Make decisions today – Life is too short!
- Incorporate your passion into your day
- Be inspired by everything around you